Five African Alternative Artists You Should Add to Your Playlist
For centuries, Africa has produced melodious masterpieces cherished throughout the continent and beyond. Until recently, the major sources of entertainment available to indigenous African music lovers were Afrobeat, Afro-pop, hip-hop, Isicathamiya, highlife, R&B music, and so on. There has been a paradigm shift on the African music scene, however. The result is the rise of alternative music acts that are taking the music world by storm.
Over the years, some young, talented individuals have attempted to make alternative African music more popular. They have been quite successful. This is largely due to the creativity of Africa’s new breed of musicians, who have stepped away from the norm and created sounds that may not have a genre but do have a significant following. Using a blend of electronic sounds, live musical instruments, and extracts from their traditional African roots, these artists are taking on the African music scene and thriving within its limitless boundaries.
We have compiled below a list of five African alternative artists worth adding to your music library.
Born in Bronx, New York, and raised between Atlanta, Georgia, and Accra, Amaarae is a 23-year-old singer, songwriter, producer, and sound engineer. With a love of music spanning her entire lifetime, Amaarae has developed a unique sound that encompasses the sweet melodies of jazz, blues, and folk music. She describes her sound as “an eclectic blend of bold, painful, and vulnerable melodies.” The combination of uninhibited wordplay and her small, yet alluring vocals are what make her such a delightful artist. With a maturity and musical presence that surpass her mere 23 years, Amaarae is a definite favourite on Africa’s alternative music scene.
Not many Nigerian artistes are able to achieve success or recognition in the early days of their career, but this hasn’t been the case for Odunsi (The Engine). He has enjoyed success since deciding to pursue a professional music career in 2016. His approach to music combines genres like Afrobeat, soul, R&B, and electronica. His style, which has been dubbed “Afro-fusion,” creates an experience and sound that many people in the world haven’t heard. As a result, Odunsi has been able to shape a sound that’s hard to replicate but well received around the world.
A Ghanaian contemporary singer, Yaw P consistently channels his love of culture, art, and sound into producing music that is often described as unorthodox and unapologetically personal. His sound, influenced by electronic, house, and Ghanaian traditional music, makes for an eclectic and lovable blend of familiar melodies masked with new-age improvisations. And with a love for film, sculpture, and sound, he is able to influence his surroundings in a way no other artiste can.
Nigerian-born Afro, R & B, and soul singer Nonso Amadi is one of the few artistes who draw inspiration both from his predecessors and his own life experiences. This has led him to create a unique sound that resonates in the hearts of people. We might as well call him Midas, because everything he touches turns to gold. With his knack for song writing and a sound that combines the ever popular mix of pop and Afrobeat, Amadi leaves us eager to hear what he releases this year.
Just a Band
Comprising Bill “Blinky” Sellanga, Daniel Muli, and Mbithi Masya, this Kenyan music group is entirely in a league of its own. Writing, producing, and engineering their own music, directing their music videos, and even packaging their tour merchandise, these band members give a whole new meaning to DIY. With an eclectic and ever-evolving sound, Just a Band has experimented with just about every genre of music thinkable, continually entertaining and surprising their most devoted fans.
Much work still needs to be done for alternative African music to gain wider public recognition and acceptance. The above artistes, however, are making a significant difference by courageously resisting the urge to churn out music that is acceptable but inauthentic. It is important to observe the glaring potential of these “new cool” singers, especially since their progressive fan base is ready for unconventional sounds in Africa.
September 11, 2019